THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
The Industrial Revolution was a period in the 18th and 19th centuries when rapid change took place in agriculture, manufacturing, production and transport. Every aspect of daily life was affected in some way. A massive turning point was reached in human society and the effects of which were felt upon the cultural, social and economic conditions in Britain.
The causes for Britain’s industrialization were population increase and the Napoleonic wars. These two major events created a massive demand for the production of coal, iron and steam power. The domestic market was the biggest user of coal from 1700-1830; iron was needed for weapons; and woollen items needed for servicemen. Coal was required for heating people’s homes and for cooking and washing. A rise in the coal consumption caused the iron industry to be the third biggest consumer in 1830. Eight tons of coal was required for every ton of iron produced.
Steam power became the driving force behind the manufacture of coal and iron and was used in Yorkshire’s and Lancashire’s textile mills. The Newcomen steam engine was introduced which devoured large quantities of coal. Later, the Boulton & Watt steam engine was invented needing less coal. They were both used in the textile mills. In 1769, James Watt developed a ‘steam condenser’ which allowed other engines to use less fuel. In 1781, he later discovered a ‘rotary’ engine which drove wheels. This new ‘rotary’ machine was a crucial breakthrough as it allowed steam engines to operate spinning machines which had traditionally been powered by water in cotton mills.
These ‘rotary’ engines were used in iron works and coal and copper mines. They were employed to winch men out of mine shafts; lift barges out of canals; pump water; for breweries; brick works and in china factories. As a result the steam engine’s popularity, created a massive demand for coal because of more fuel required. Industries sprung up in the coalfields of the Midlands, North of England, Scotland and South Wales.
Coal mining was at the centre of Britain’s industry which was the key to Britain’s success. An improvement in coal mining techniques, such as Adnit mining and Bell pits were used originally for excavation. When demands grew, deeper mines had to be dug. Deeper mines lead to the Newcomen engine being used. However, problems with underground drainage, ventilation and lighting, as well as transport started to occur.
Ventilation was essential because of poisonous gases and trap doors were introduced to counteract this which provided currents of fresh air by a convection system. Lighting became possible through Sir Humphrey davy’s safety lamp which was invented in 1815. In 1781, transportation of coal underground took place by steam engines which hauled the coal out of the mines to the surface.
Iron was a very important material and used to make weapons (including cannons), carts and buckles for Britain’s wars. Iron was needed for guns and tools for Britain’s overseas trade and quality iron was needed to make improved tools and machines in agriculture. Pots, pans, knives and forks were required by a growing population. Iron was required for making large machines and parts for small machines.
In 1784, Henry Cort created a reverbatory furnace, as well as puddling and rolling which helped to burn off impurities in iron. In 1829, James Neilson discovered a method to increase output of iron whilst still using the same quantity of coal to do so. Ovens heated air before it was blasted into furnaces. These furnaces temperature rose to 600◦F. Three times more iron could be produced like this. James Nasmyth created a hammer which was steam powered. It shaped iron so that rails could be made for Britain’s railway network. An increase in growth in the railway network in Britain put iron output up by 15%.
The war saw a growing demand for the production of steel needed for the ship industry and in 1856, Henry Bessemer invented his Bessemer converter. The Bessemer converter turned iron into steel. It was not a total success as it made steel brittle because British iron contained phosphorous. However, the Siemens Open-hearth furnace was a success as it was able to turn scrap pig iron into quality steel.
Road transport was very poor in eighteenth century due to rain which turned them muddy and impassable. Rivers became shallow in the summer and barges could not use them. Turnpike Trusts created some improvements to roads by businessmen who gained permission from an Act of Parliament. Bulky goods, however, which were sent by packhorse or wagon was still costly and road conditions varied.
A huge network of canals was built because of the success of James Brindley’s canal (1760) which crossed the river Irwell. This transport ‘revolution’ reduced costs of transporting raw materials and goods. Canals took goods to cities and towns all over Britain. It did not matter how far factories were from customers. Canals helped to improve British industry but they were slow.
By 1851, a group of navvies built 6,700 miles of railway track. An improved railway network had a massive impact upon the Industrial Revolution in Britain. Factory owner made a fortune due to demand for coal, iron, bricks, timber and steam engines which boosted industry. New markets were created as costs came down and transport brought raw materials quicker.
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- Sylvia Coulson (Author), 2009, The Industrial Revolution in Britain, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/280439